Boom: New Orleans gets largest seminary class in a quarter century


After years of relative scarcity, the Archdiocese of New Orleans opens the academic year with a bumper crop of young men entering seminary studies for the priesthood — the largest group in 26 years.

Thirty-six men have enrolled at either St. Joseph Seminary in Covington for undergraduate training, or Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans for graduate work, leading to ordination during the next eight years.

Last year the number was 27. Before that, 20.

No one in the regional church believes it’s the beginning of the end of the priest shortage that has bled the Catholic church for more than 30 years, or even that a class this size establishes a new norm for the future.

But Archbishop Gregory Aymond and others say they are cautiously optimistic that a series of concrete initiatives to increase the number of New Orleans priests is beginning to bear fruit.

The candidates range in age from 18 to 51. Four will enter St. Joseph Seminary right out of high school, a relative rarity. Others, like Chad Ham, 47, and Chris Zavackis, 42, have left established careers — in law and social work, respectively.

Nationally, the average age of newly ordained priests last year was 31, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. More than 90 percent had full-time jobs before seminary; 60 percent had completed college before entering seminary.

Read more, including how the archdiocese is striving to create a “culture of vocations.”

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4 responses to “Boom: New Orleans gets largest seminary class in a quarter century”

  1. Fantastic! I’m also proud to say that my little parish in Staten Island (St. Rita’s) will have currently two young men for seminary, one a few years into his education and one who will be starting shortly. I have no idea which seminary they are attending. There are some good signs out there. May God continue to bless those called for vocation.

  2. Last year we had 21 new seminarians at St Gertrude Parish for the Dominicans of the Eastern province. 16 of them took first vows and moved on. This year we have 13 more, while not as many, it is still a very strong group. The average age is much lower and many come in with strong influence from JPII. I think we are seeing the fruits of JPII and also Benedict XVI starting to arrive with not only more, but those who are much more tied to the full teaching of the Church and determined to preach it to its full beauty.

    Locally we are seeing more seminarians than we have in years and soon expect to see over 100 at the local seminary. In dioceses where you have strong solid teaching and a bishop focused on vocations, you see this postive growth. For years, we actually had a nun in the process who could reject incoming seminarians and often did so if they did not believe women should be allowed to be priests. She is now removed and a new process is now discerning vocations based on actual Catholic teaching. Remember, the visitation by the Vatican cleared out a lot of very bad things going on that drove away those called by God.

  3. Manny: I know your pastor and have heard him preach at CL events! I met a seminarian who was working there for the summer. It is such a great parish; you are blessed with Father Rich.

  4. @Rambling

    Yes, Fr. Veras is fabulous. I get so disappointed when he’s not the one serving my mass. I listen to every word of his homilies. I wish they could keep to a schedule. I never know which priest is serving until the organist starts up the music. 😉

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